By RAY HENRY Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) - A federal appeals panel has tossed a lower court ruling that would have severely restricted the main water source for roughly 3 million people in metro Atlanta.
The ruling Tuesday by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an order from U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson.
His order would have starkly cut Atlanta's ability to take water from Lake Lanier starting in July 2012 unless the governors of Georgia, Alabama and Florida can reach an agreement ending the long-running water dispute.
The appeals court says the U.S. Corps of Engineers must first issue a final decision on whether Georgia can have more water before legal challenges can proceed. Lawyers for Georgia say Congress always intended the lake would supply Atlanta with water.
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens released the following statement regarding today's ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals:
"This afternoon's ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is a major victory for Georgia. The Court affirms what we have long argued: that Lake Lanier is authorized for water supply. Although we continue to review the thorough ruling in its entirety, it is clear that this is a great day for Georgia."
Meanwhile, The office of Gov. Nathan Deal is rapidly reviewing the decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on our water case, but he says at first glance it appears that the state of Georgia has won a great victory.
The 11th Circuit panel has ruled unanimously that Lake Lanier was built for the purpose of water supply for the metro Atlanta area. This means that the Lake will continue to be available to meet Georgia's needs.
The governor remains committed to working with Alabama and Florida towards a fair agreement regarding the sharing of water in the ACF and ACT Basins.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)